Beating the Unsubscribe with the Opt-down Approach

One of the main reasons people unsubscribe from email lists is a lack of relevance in the email they receive. Maybe there’s too much or not enough, or maybe the content and messaging is no longer meaningful to them. Lack of relevance is consistently one of the top responses from consumers on why they unsubscribe.

While providing an unsubscribe button is a must, meeting compliance standards such as CAN-SPAM, it’s singularly focused and somewhat final.

What we’ve seen over the last few years is marketers – particularly retail marketers – is providing an “opt-down” approach as an alternative to potential unsubscribes. This means you give your subscribers more choices beyond opting out of your email program altogether, such as reducing frequency. The opt-down approach to unsubscribe requests gives you an opportunity to retain those subscribers, and on their terms.

The idea is very similar to providing your email subscribers with a preference center – a place on the website where subscribers can update details and choose what information they receive, and how often they receive those emails from you.

Email cadence preferences

The most basic opt-down list gives your subscribers the option to change their email frequency. For example if you send multiple emails daily, offer them the option to receive email once a week and once a month. Once a subscriber chooses a new frequency, you have to determine which emails from your entire email program will be sent to each frequency segment.

For example, some retail marketers with a brick and mortar store, the big email is typically the Friday or Saturday email, containing the hottest deals and the best discounts. Those typically get better open rates, drive traffic to the website or brick-and-mortar store, and offer solid conversion-to-sale numbers.  Because of that, retailers should choose this campaign to send to the “once-a-week” segment. For other business segments, look at your email reports to see which campaigns consistently get the best metrics.

For the “once-a-month” segment, the big deal, special or promotion planned for the month should be the email sent to that segment. The monthly email could even be a roundup of deals from the month, but that does require a bit more work because offers are fluid and not all would be appropriate to send to a once-a-month email recipient. And, when you know part of your list is only getting one email each month, make that email part of your monthly planning to make sure it has maximum impact.

Other preference options

Beyond email frequency, you can offer subscribers the option to receive only certain types of campaigns. For example:

  • Big box retailers might offer email from departments such as apparel, lawn and garden, electronics, women’s clothing, etc.
  • Travel and hospitality companies could have categories including cruises, airlines, hotels and resorts.
  • Financial services firms might have mortgage rate, bank promotions, investments or checking accounts.
  • B2B companies can offer product updates, press announcements, white papers and case studies, or deals on software or services.

What’s important is to think about the main verticals within your business and the types of products or categories you offer and make those the options on the opt-down page. But, you have to be realistic and make sure those are categories that you can segment by in your email program.

Reclaim rate: new email KPI to track

The big win with the opt-down approach is you haven’t lost a customer – you’ve actually kept in communication with them, just on their terms. And, if you use the opt-down approach you should also begin tracking a new key performance indicator: the reclaim rate. This metric is the percentage of people who clicked on the unsubscribe link and ended up staying. You can track this metric over time to measure the success of the opt-down page, and look into your reporting to see if you can assign revenue to that subscriber segment too.

One final caveat with the opt-down approach – once your subscriber sticks with you but makes their preference known for a certain email frequency or type of email, be sure you honor that preference and only send them the email they want to receive.

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